COVID-19 restrictions meant that trade shows were among the first to be shut down, at least in their traditional form. The resourcefulness and creativity of organizers around the world mean that a lot of these shows have gone virtual, allowing professionals the chance to learn and network. This year’s National Electrical Contractors Association 2020 LIVE Convention & Trade Show is no different, going virtual for the first time ever. And despite new surroundings, there is still a lot of important information we picked up about the industry after attending. So, with that in mind, here are some essential details/sessions from this year’s National Electrical Contractors Association Trade Show 2020.
The Business Case For A Diverse Organization
This discussion turned out to be one of the most-talked-about sessions at this year’s conference. Note that this didn’t just talk about diversity, but also how it impacts the bottom line in business. Part of the discussion revolved around the fact that every generation and even every individual has their definition of diversity. Part of the work for businesses is making sure that all of these different perspectives are linked. Being selective instead of diverse is not something that the electrical industry can afford in its current state.
The last five years have also seen a significant shift in terms of behavior on job sites, from how workers conduct themselves to how they interact with each other, for the better. All businesses need to enact positive change like this, and a lot of that means finding ways to appeal to/understand underserved groups. This could open up a whole new set of potential employees.
The New Role of Data In Construction
In and of itself, data has become a bit of a buzzword across every industry. There is a reason for this. In this session, a significant shift in the construction mentality was addressed: how does one progress from being a commodity to a consultant? A lot of this boils down to how different organizations use data to become better contractors. As a result, it’s crucial for companies to find new things they can learn from their data and a pivot off of it.
This is an exciting time for the electrical and construction industries, where a lot of companies are reevaluating what they can do in order to be more efficient and effective. The mentality of running a business “from the gut” has been the primary option for decades. However, things are beginning to change here, and that simply isn’t good enough. Data and the insights you get from it are where companies really need to look at next. This helps figure out your profit margin and how you can work to increase it.
Breaking Into Prefab and Digitized Procurement Without BIM/Upfront Costs
This topic has become a rather important one across the construction industry. Many electrical contractors or other contractors fall into the trap that to do any sort of prefab construction, you need to use BIM (business information modeling). This also tends to link with the concept that small-medium sized contractors cannot do prefab construction either. This session helped to bust both those myths.
There is technology out there that allows for making simple PDFs connected to your prefab assemblies, then running the workflow from the PDF. This type of creativity makes it possible to make the benefits of prefab construction available for more companies. With that said, this may not be applicable for smaller projects just as a matter of basic ROI. This also connects to digital procurement, which makes it possible to go into a system and order from a vendor rather than through the conventional process.
Getting Paid For Your Change Orders
This session covered the common issue of processing and managing change orders, which can be a challenge for trade contractors because it has transferred from a paper-based process to Excel to legacy software. However, this still makes it challenging to get the information you need in the field as things happen. In order to understand what took place, price out the change, process it, then begin again, it takes time.
One of the major takeaways here was that documentation is essential for getting paid faster for change orders—the speed of said documentation matters. If you can present the order in front of your customers, you have a better chance of getting paid because you have the evidence to give you leverage. As a result, it’s more important now than ever for contractors to get in the habit of putting their change orders in a formal system where all the appropriate people can approve them.
The Value of Speaking Up
The truth is that effective listening is something that anyone in any workplace should try to develop. However, it’s incredibly important in construction and the trades because many field workers, by nature, tend not to speak up. They may sit through a conversation and not agree with what they are hearing, then go along with their business. This is mainly due to a mentality that no one will listen to them.
This causes issues not just for morale, but it also hurts the ability of people to innovate and move their projects forward. As we talk about technology, this is extremely important. Empowering people to speak up allows them to introduce new technology or methods that could help your business.
This year’s National Electrical Contractors Association trade show is a landmark event in a number of ways. Not only does NECA show a variety of different trends and developments in the world of electrical contracting, as it does every other year, but it also opens a window into the possibility of virtual events. It shows the ability to learn and network even while physically separated shows a new possibility for the industry. Be sure to follow the eSUB Blog for more trade industry developments and news.